Considering the Cats past season and especially their troubles on defence, I thought I would look to see how Justin Hickman, the Cats former defensive end who signed with the Indianapolis Colts is doing this season. He's listed as an outside linebacker, with ten tackles (six solo and four assisted) through nine games. I'm not sure what that means for next year, but he is seeing the field so the chances of him coming back to Hamilton.
In 2011 Hickman led the CFL with 13 sacks (tied). Losing him to the NFL last year definitely hurt the Cats defensive line, especially early in the season when sack production was very weak. Obviously if the Cats had been able to sign him, they couldn't have spent money elsewhere so the team probably would have ended up differently. Still if you're looking to where the Cats went wrong in 2012, not having Hickman was a factor.
The Cats did sign free agent defensive end Greg Peach and the line did improve somewhat later in the season, but was certainly never a force. I don't really see the Cats signing a big name defensive end free agent next year. More likely the Cats will bring in a ton of guys to camp and try to augment the defensive line with the players they already have. Assuming the Cats get non-import Eddie Steele back from a leg injury before camp and another Canadian emerges from recent drafts as a backup, the Cats could try for a non-import starter on the defensive line again. Having an all American line and not being very good like this year isn't a good strategy in the CFL.